Ravi Zacharias

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Ravi Zacharias
Ravi Zacharias Preaching.jpg
Zacharias in 2015
Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias

(1946-03-26)26 March 1946
Died19 May 2020(2020-05-19) (aged 74)
United States
OccupationChristian apologist, founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
Spouse(s)Margaret Reynolds (m. 1972–2020)
Academic background
Alma materTrinity International University
InfluencesNorman Geisler, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Polkinghorne, Billy Graham
Academic work
Era21st-century philosophy
School or traditionChristian philosophy
Main interestsPhilosophy of religion, Christian Apologetics, Worldview
Notable ideasFour Criteria for a Coherent Worldview
InfluencedNabeel Qureshi, Lee Strobel, Frank Turek, Paul Copan, Vince Vitale, Adbu Murray, Kelly Monroe Kullberg

Ravi Zacharias (26 March 1946 – 19 May 2020) was an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist.[1] Zacharias was the author of more than 30 books on Christianity,[2] including the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's Gold Medallion Book Award winner Can Man Live Without God? in the category "theology and doctrine"[3] as well as Christian bestsellers Light in the Shadow of Jihad and The Grand Weaver.[4] Zacharias was the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and host of the radio programs Let My People Think and Just Thinking.[5][6] He was a lifelong minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Keswickian Christian denomination in which he was ordained.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Zacharias was born on 26 March 1946 in Madras, India to Malayali parents. His family moved to Delhi when he was quite young and he grew up there.[6]

His family was Anglican,[8] but he was a "skeptic" until the age of 17 when he tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison.[6][9] While he was in the hospital, a local Christian worker brought him a Bible and told his mother to read to him from John 14, which contains Jesus' words to Thomas the Apostle.[6][10] Zacharias said it was John 14:19 that touched him as the defining paradigm, "Because I live, you also will live", and that he thought, "This may be my only hope: A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of Life." He committed his life to Christ, praying that "Jesus if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it. Please get me out of this hospital bed well, and I promise I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth."[11]

In 1966, Zacharias immigrated with his family to Canada,[6] earning his undergraduate degree from the Ontario Bible College in 1972 (now Tyndale University) and his M.Div. from Trinity International University in 1976.[6]

In 1990, he participated in guided study at Ridley Hall, a Church of England theological school in Cambridge.[6]



Ravi Zacharias talks to pastor Joe Coffey at Christ Community Chapel about answering objections to Christianity.

Zacharias spent the summer of 1971 in South Vietnam, where he evangelized US soldiers, as well as imprisoned Viet Cong members.[9][12] After graduating from Ontario Bible College, he began an itinerant ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) in Canada.[13] In 1974 the C&MA sent him to Cambodia, where he preached only a short time before its fall to the Khmer Rouge.[9] He was later ordained by the C&MA in 1980, and between 1980 and 1984, he taught at the C&MA-affiliated Alliance Theological Seminary, where he was a professor of evangelism.[6][14]

In 1983, Zacharias spoke in Amsterdam at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's first International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists.[15] After Amsterdam, Zacharias spent the summer evangelizing in India, where he continued to see the need for apologetic ministry, both to lead people to Christ and to train Christian leaders. In August 1984, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries was founded in Toronto, Canada, to pursue his calling as a "classical evangelist in the arena of the intellectually resistant."[16] Today its headquarters are located in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.[6]

In 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zacharias spoke in Moscow with students at the Lenin Military Academy as well as political leaders at the Center for Geopolitical Strategy.[17][18] This was the first of many evangelism events in the political sphere. Future events included one in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1993, where he spoke to members of the judiciary on the importance of having a solid moral foundation.[19]

In 1990 he wrote his first book, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism.[20] In 1992, Zacharias spoke at his first Veritas Forum at Harvard University,[9][21] and later that year was one of the keynote speakers at Urbana.[22] Zacharias continued to be a frequent guest at these forums,[23] both giving lectures and answering students in question and answer sessions at academic institutions including the University of Georgia,[24] the University of Michigan,[25] and Penn State.[26]

Zacharias attracted media attention when in 2004 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) opened its signature pulpit at the Salt Lake Tabernacle to him for a series of messages. Zacharias delivered a sermon on "Who Is the Truth? Defending Jesus Christ as The Way, The Truth and The Life" to some 7,000 lay-persons and scholars from both LDS and Protestant camps in an initiatory move towards open dialogue between the camps.[27] Some evangelicals criticized Zacharias' decision not to use this opportunity to directly address the "deep and foundational" differences between the traditional Christian faith and that of the teachings of the LDS Church. He responded by asserting that Christians should not immediately condemn so-called "Mormonism's" theological differences but "graciously build one step at a time in communicating our faith with clarity and conviction". He said this is just as effective as showing someone the faults of their faith.[28] The speaking engagement was nearly sabotaged by an allegation by event organizer Greg Johnson, president of Standing Together, that Zacharias had nothing to do with editing the book The Kingdom of the Cults and had only loaned his name to the latest edition. Johnson later apologized for his comment.[29]

Zacharias was a frequent keynote lecturer within the evangelical community at events including the Future of Truth conference in 2004,[30] the National Religious Broadcasters' Convention and Exposition in 2005,[31] the National Conference on Christian Apologetics in 2006.[32] On successive nights in October 2007, he addressed first the students and faculty of Virginia Tech, then the community of Blacksburg, Virginia, on the topic of evil and suffering in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre.[33] Zacharias has represented the evangelical community at occasions such as the National Day of Prayer in Washington, D.C., the Annual Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations, and the African Union Prayer Breakfast in Maputo, Mozambique, and was named honorary chairman of the 2008 National Day of Prayer task force.[34] He also participated in the ecumenical Together 2016 meetings in July 2016, which Pope Francis addressed, describing the event as a valiant effort.[35]*"'Together 2016' Confirmed Speakers". Official website. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.*"Together 2016: Update from Washington, D.C." Ravi Zacharias' personal account. 21 July 2016.</ref>

Zacharias was interviewed in Focus on the Family's Truth Project. In November 2009, Zacharias signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration which affirms the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and freedom of religion, as foundational principles of justice and the common good.[36]

In 2014, Zacharias republished his book The Lamb and The Fuhrer, an imaginary conversation between Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ and Dietrich Bonhoffer, as a graphic novel.[37] In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio appointed Zacharias to his pro-life "Dignity Of Life" advisory panel.[38]

In 2015, according to the public Form 990 tax return, Zacharias and his wife reported earning a combined total of $523,926 from his non-profit Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).[39]


Zacharias argued that a coherent worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer four questions: that of origin, meaning of life, morality, and destiny. He said that while every major religion makes exclusive claims about truth, the Christian faith is unique in its ability to answer all four of these questions.[40] He routinely spoke on the coherence of the Christian worldview,[41] saying that Christianity is capable of withstanding the toughest philosophical attacks.[42] Zacharias believed that the apologist must argue from three levels: from logic to make it tenable; from feelings to make it liveable; and from whether one has the right to use it to make moral judgments.[43] Zacharias' style of apologetics focused predominantly on Christianity's answers to life's great existential questions with defense of God.[6] He argued that the dominance of the visual in modern communication systems has impacted people's capacity for abstract reasoning altering their way of perceiving things; however, the integration of abstract reasoning into one's worldview is important to have its base grounded in absolutes rather than on relative feelings and fads.[44]

Controversies and allegations of sexual abuse[edit]

Academic credential controversies[edit]

In 2017, Christianity Today reported accusations that Zacharias had exaggerated his academic credentials; for instance that he had referred to himself in multiple articles and videos with the title "Doctor" or "Dr.", despite lacking a PhD qualification. In response, Zacharias said he had been "conferred ten honorary doctorates" and said further that "in Ravi's homeland of India … honorific titles are customary and are used frequently out of respect for elders, including by the RZIM India team when addressing Ravi."

The veracity of Zacharias's purported academic positions at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was also questioned.[45]

In a statement, RZIM indicated that "[in] earlier years, 'Dr.' did appear before Ravi's name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates. However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it." Christianity Today reported that Zacharias' online biography was edited following the accusations regarding his credentials.[46]

Accusations of sexual misconduct[edit]

Canadian Lori Anne Thompson and her husband sent a demand letter to Zacharias requiring him to pay $5 million in exchange for them refraining from filing a lawsuit that would have accused Zacharias of impropriety involving an exchange of texts between Lori Anne Thompson and Zacharias. She had texted nude photos of herself to Zacharias. In response, Zacharias filed a RICO lawsuit against Thompson accusing the couple of trying to extort money from Zacharias.[47] The case was settled in November 2017 with a non-disclosure agreement.[47] In a 3 December 2017 statement,[48] Zacharias said, "Let me state categorically that I never met [Thompson] alone, publicly or privately. The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to [her]—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility." Zacharias added that he had been "absolutely faithful" to his wife Margie throughout their marriage, but acknowledged that he "failed to exercise wise caution and to protect [himself] from even the appearance of impropriety".[47][48]

Four months after Zacharias's death in May of 2020, three women who worked at two day spas he co-owned in Atlanta came forward alleging that Zacharias had sexually harassed multiple massage therapists over the course of a period of about five years. It is alleged when at spa Zacharias would expose himself every time, and would touch himself every time. According to Christianity Today,

Zacharias masturbated in front of one of the women more than 50 times, according to her recollection. He told her he was burdened by the demands of the ministry, and he needed this “therapy.” He also asked her to have sex with him twice, she said, and requested explicit photos of her.

Other women also confessed to Christianity Today,

“He would touch my leg, which was kind of by his hand, but then he would run his hand up to the middle of my thighs and then to the private area,” one woman said. Another woman recalled Zacharias touching her lower back. It seemed friendly, almost comforting. Then he moved his hand down and inside of her pants. Several other times, he moved his hand up her side and touched her breast.[49]

His former business partner expressed regret at not stopping Zacharias and issued an apology to one of the alleged survivors; Ravi Zacharias International Ministries denied the claims and opened a subsequent investigation.

Personal life[edit]

On 7 May 1972, Zacharias married Margaret "Margie" Reynolds, whom he met at his church's youth group.[50] They had three children, Sarah, Nathan, and Naomi.[51] He lived in Atlanta, Georgia.[6]

In March 2020, Zacharias was diagnosed with a malignant and rare cancer in his spine,[52] and on 19 May 2020, he died at his home in Atlanta at the age of 74.[53] Following his death, a number of high-profile Christians posted messages online detailing Zacharias's influence upon them.[54]

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as well as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence expressed their sympathies for Zacharias following his death.[55]



  1. ^ *Fearon, Matthew. "Obituary: Ravi Zacharias". RZIM. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  2. ^ Daniel Silliman (19 May 2020), "Ravi Zacharias Dies of Cancer", ChristianityToday. Retrieved 19 May 2020
  3. ^ "1995 Gold Medallion Book Awards Winners". Evangelical Christian Publisher's Association. 1995. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  4. ^ *"Christian Bestsellers List, August 2002". Christian Booksellers Association and the Evangelical Christian Publisher's Association. August 2002. Archived from the original on 19 May 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  5. ^ "Ravi Zacharias | RZIM". rzim.org.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (19 May 2020). "Ravi Zacharias, popular evangelical defender of the Christian faith, dies at 74". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  7. ^ Burgo, Peter (19 May 2020). "Ravi Zacharias, 1946-2020". Christian and Missionary Alliance. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  8. ^ Zacharias 2006, p. 45.
  9. ^ a b c d "Indian-born preacher Ravi Zacharias, who toured the world defending Christianity, dies at age 74". South China Morning Post. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Ravi at Princeton University – Why I'm Not an Atheist" – via www.youtube.com.
  11. ^ Zacharias 2006, pp. 101–105.
  12. ^ "Ravi Zacharias, India-born Christian apologist, dies of cancer". The Week. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  13. ^ Zacharias 2006, p. 163.
  14. ^ Silliman, Daniel (19 May 2020). "Ravi Zacharias dies of cancer". Christianity Today.
  15. ^ "Evangelist Who Built Global Ministry Dies in Atlanta at 74". The New York Times. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  16. ^ Edward Plowman (March 1998). "Meet Ravi Zacharias". National and International Religion Report. Evangelicals Now. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  17. ^ Frederick, Prince (7 June 2011). "Mind matters". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  18. ^ Zacharias 2006, pp. 197–199.
  19. ^ Zacharias 2006, pp. 200–201.
  20. ^ "'Ahora esta con Jesús': el apologista cristiano Ravi Zacharias muere a los 74 años". Christian Post Español. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  21. ^ "News from the North American Scene: January 11, 1993". Christianity Today. 11 January 1993. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  22. ^ Zacharias, Ravi. "Jesus Christ Among Other Gods: Urbana 1993 Address". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  23. ^ "NEWS: Truth Makes a Comeback in University Settings". Christianity Today. 40 (1). January 1996. Retrieved 18 February 2008. While certain speakers such as Zacharias, sociologist Os Guinness, law professor Phillip Johnson, and philosopher Eleanor Stump have made repeat appearances, the actual presentation differs from school to school.
  24. ^ Parker, Pearman (28 September 2007). "Celebrated evangelist attracts thousands". redandblack.com. The Red and Black Publishing Company Inc. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  25. ^ Schwartz, Karen (4 February 2003). "U. Michigan: U. Michigan speaker discusses American culture's ties to religion". The America's Intelligence Wire. Financial Times Ltd. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  26. ^ Colella, Kristin (17 February 2005). "Author shares insight on faith". Daily Collegian online. Collegian Inc. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  27. ^ Moore, Carrie A. (15 November 2004). "Evangelical preaches at Salt Lake Tabernacle". Deseret Morning News. deseretnews.com. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  28. ^ Chang, Pauline J. (24 December 2004). "Evangelical Defends Decision to Speak at Mormon Tabernacle". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  29. ^ Beverley, James A. (January 2005). "Evangelist in Brigham Young's Court". Christianity Today. christianitytoday.com. Retrieved 20 March 2008.
  30. ^ Newswire, PR (15 July 2004). "Future of Truth Conference Explores Biblical Realities, Exposes Theological Heresies to Present a More Convincing Picture of Truth in Today's Society; Conference Will Feature Trusted Theologians Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Phillip Johnson, Erwin Lutzer, Emir Caner and Frank Peretti at The Moody Church in Chicago". PR Newswire Association LLC. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  31. ^ Chang, Pauline J. (13 February 2005). "Thousands Flock to Anaheim for Largest Christian Communications Convention". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  32. ^ Vu, Michelle (2 March 2007). "MissionFest Opens Asking 'What Does it Mean to be Human?'". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  33. ^ Key, Lindsay (10 October 2007). "Virginia Tech audience hears Christian speaker". The Roanoke Times. roanoke.com. Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  34. ^ "National Day of Prayer Task Force – Dr. Ravi Zacharias Bio". National Day of Prayer official website. Archived from the original on 30 May 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  35. ^ "'Together 2016': July 16 D.C. event to see Evangelicals, Catholics forging 'historic unity' to 'pray for a reset for our nation'". Christianity Today. 11 June 2016. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  36. ^ "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience". Demossnews.com. Archived from the original on 1 September 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  37. ^ "First Graphic Novel by Apologist Ravi Zacharias". Religion Press Release Services. Religion News Service. 18 June 2014. Archived from the original on 19 February 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  38. ^ Gryboski, Michael (21 January 2016). "Rubio Forms 'Dignity of Life' Board Featuring Al Mohler, Ravi Zacharias". The Christian Post. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  39. ^ "Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Full Filing – Nonprofit Explorer". ProPublica.
  40. ^ Zacharias, Ravi (1997). Deliver Us From Evil. Nashville: Word. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-8499-3950-X.
  41. ^ Duin, Julia (4 July 2003). "Christian worldview; Theologian-author Zacharias decries media double-standard". The Washington Times. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  42. ^ "Ravi Zacharias: Defender of the FAITH; Alpharetta minister takes the Gospel to intellectuals". The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. 1 March 1997. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  43. ^ Zacharias, Ravi; Norman L. Geisler (2003). Is Your Church Ready?. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. pp. 33-34. ISBN 0-8499-3950-X. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  44. ^ Marbaniang, Domenic (October 2008). "21st Century Christian Contribution to Philosophy". Basileia. I (1): 13–15. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  45. ^ Shellnutt, Kate; Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff (3 December 2017). "Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique". News & Reporting. Christianity Today. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  46. ^ "RZIM: Statement on Ravi Zacharias' Biography". RZIM. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  47. ^ a b c Shellnutt, Kate; Eekhoff Zylstra, Sarah (3 December 2017). "Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique". Christianity Today. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  48. ^ a b Zacharias, Ravi. "Ravi Zacharias: Statement on My Federal Lawsuit". RZIM. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  49. ^ Silliman, Daniel (29 September 2020). "Ravi Zacharias's Ministry Investigates Claims of Sexual Misconduct at Spas". Christianity Today. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  50. ^ Zacharias 2006.
  51. ^ Foust, Michael (19 May 2020). "Ravi Zacharias dead at 74". Christian Headlines. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  52. ^ Foust, Michael (13 March 2020). "Ravi Zacharias Reveals He Has Malignant Tumor: 'We Are Trusting The Lord'". Christian Headlines. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  53. ^ "Ravi Zacharias dies of cancer at 74". Disrn. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  54. ^ BST, Staff writer Sun 17 May 2020 12:16. "Ravi Zacharias cancer update: Beautiful tributes for apologist after grim prognosis". www.christiantoday.com. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  55. ^ Parke, Caleb. "Ravi Zacharias tributes pour in from Pence, Christian leaders". www.foxnews.com. Retrieved 25 October 2020.

Works cited[edit]

  • Zacharias, Ravi (2006). Walking From East to West: God in the Shadows. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-25915-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]